Debbie McDaniel has been a force among Five Points retailers, with her consignment shops Sid & Nancy and Revente. But she’s been no less a force in her Rosewood neighborhood during more than three decades in the community. She shares some of her experiences.
By Elizabeth Bock
May 13, 2018
You can tell that Debbie McDaniel is a colorful character as soon as you walk into her Rosewood house. From the mannequin sitting at the head of her dining room table to the cutout of a man peeping through the garage window, it’s clear she has a knack for the unconventional.
McDaniel and her husband, Ralph Waldrop, who used to paint murals across the South, among them the American flag outside Yesterday’s Tavern, moved into their house on South Edisto Street in 1991 and got married in their backyard under a pecan tree.
“We call it The Love Tree,” McDaniel says.
She opened the consignment shop Revente in Five Points in 1992 with some help from friends and family who came down from Greenville.
She later opened Sid & Nancy two doors down. McDaniel offered her employees health insurance, something she did not have to do as a small-business owner but says simply, “It was the right thing to do.”
Kelly Tabor, owner of the Good For the Sole shoe shop in Five Points and secretary of the Five Points Association, has lived in McDaniel’s garage apartment for 11 years and has seen her giving nature first-hand.
He recalled the time she bought the neighborhood police officers bulletproof vests after an officer was shot in Shandon.
“She has a heart of gold,” Tabor said. “She’ll help out anyone that she can.”
And when McDaniel wants to show support for someone in need, she does more than just show it – she lives it. She shaved her head for the Baldrick’s Foundation, which supports children’s cancer research, when one of her friend’s best friend’s sons was diagnosed with cancer.
“She makes her friends her family,” Tabor said.
McDaniel has been in Columbia since 1972, and her personality and impact in Rosewood and Five Points is hard to ignore. Jason Jacobs, who has lived in Rosewood for 5 years said she is one of the “coolest ladies in the neighborhood.”
“Everybody knows her. Live in Rosewood for 10 minutes, and you know who Debbie is,” Jacobs said.
In recent years, McDaniel cared for her mother, who had Alzheimer’s disease and lived in an assisted living facility. Her mother died in April as this story was about to be posted.
Columbia Voice sat down with McDaniel to discuss her life, career and experiences in Rosewood and Five Points. This excerpt has been edited for length and clarity. (Listen to the entire interview.)
I have been told that you are the “Mama of Five Points.” Can you tell me what it was like to be a woman starting your own business in the ’90s?
It was scary. I borrowed $2,500 from my parents and put in $2,500 of my own, and it was just sweat equity from that. I had friends that had worked with me at Bonwit Teller that came down and helped me. My mom came down. What I did was go through the phonebook, because this was kind of pre-computer, and all my customers throughout my retail days – I had postcards printed off that I was opening that consignment shop and would be happy to come get their clothing. And so that’s how it started. And we started where Sid & Nancy is now. And that was May 1, 1992.
As a small-business owner, you didn’t have to offer your employees health insurance, but you did, so why did you think that was important for you to do that?
Because I felt it was the right thing to do.
I also heard you bought the police officers around Rosewood bullet-proof vests. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
You were probably not here then, but there was a young officer who was shot in Shandon by a, I think the kid was actually a student, and it turned out that most of the vests they had either had expired or were getting ready to expire. So one of the officers, Tony Greene, he and I are very, very close, and his vest was expired. So, we put together an Invest In a Vest, I think is what we called it, and had a big thing at the fountain, and jars in different stores, and were able to donate. …
Now since you’re retired, how has your life changed? What does your day to day life look like?
It’s not what I expected. My last day of work was also my birthday, and midafternoon, my staff called me out front, and there was a cake and a lot of regular customers, loyal customers and merchants from the area. And, when I got back to my desk, my cellphone had blown up, and my dad had taken my mother, who has Alzheimer’s, with him to a doctor’s appointment, and the doctor wanted to immediately admit him to the hospital. … So, the very next morning, I left and went to Greenville and ended up being there, I think six weeks. My dad passed away, so I immediately became my mother’s caregiver. And, we also had to pack up a house they had lived in for 50 years.
I was told that you had one time shaved your head for the Baldrick’s –
Two or three times. I was registered to do it this year, but my mom’s declining so quickly, it’s very hard for me to commit myself to anything, because I could get a phone call at any minute. …
What compelled you to shave your head for the Baldrick’s Foundation?
It raises money for children’s’ cancer. And one of my friends, Josh, his best friend’s little boy is going through cancer.
I didn’t notice that tattoo on your arm. What is that?
They had a fundraiser. Look at my skin, I’ve lost like 20 pounds from stress. Anyway, they asked me, they said, “Can you help us raise money?” I’m good at connecting people. I said on one condition: that I form a group of women and name it “Wide Open Vajayjays.” So, you want a picture of my tattoo? … We raised a good bit of money, and we bought a table, and it was a fun night.
How do you feel that you have impacted Rosewood and Five Points, having been here so long?
I don’t know how much I’ve impacted Rosewood. I’m very lucky to live on this street. … Tony and Ruth next door, the only ones on this street that were here when we moved in. Everybody else has come after them, and we’ve got a real tight camaraderie. We have our own Facebook page, so we can let people know if I’m going to be out of town, look out for so-and-so, things like that. … I’m sorry, what was the question?
Just how you think you’ve impacted Rosewood and Five Points.
Well, Five Points, I was very vocal. I sat on the board for many, many, many years. I was with the small group that started the very first St. Pat’s. … It was held in Yesterday’s parking lot. It’s just kind of, not my thing anymore. But I had two great‑nephews come up from Alabama this year. They really enjoyed it. They were underage and did not drink any beer or anything. They just went for the music.
Can you tell me how you and your husband met?
There used to be a place on Rosewood called Rupert’s. I think it burned down. … The end of ’88. I walked in with a friend of mine who worked for Chernoff Silver, one of the big ad agencies. And her husband and Ralph’s ex-wife had worked with her, so she knew him. And he was sitting, they had, like, a long bar. Not a bar that served beer, but just a long bar where you could just sit with your friends, and he was reading a book. And, she asked him if he’d like to come sit with us. And that was pretty much it. We bought this house, and six weeks later got married in the back yard. … And we got married under that pecan tree.